Writer’s Lounge: Fiona Hill, Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump, ERA

photo of classic Victorian era study and lounge

 

If Jim Jordan is leading the team, you might want to bet against that team.

 

photo of Jim Jordan (R-OH), member of House Freedom Caucus and House Oversight Committee in a congressional hearing

In perusing the transcript of the Fiona Hill deposition before the joint House Impeachment Inquiry committee, presided over by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), I happened across this gem, which gives us a bit of a preview how ineffective House Oversight Committee member Jim Jordan (R-OH) is going to prove to be when he is moved over to the House Intelligence Committee as replacement for Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has become a self caricature. 

Here, Rep. Jordan tries to posit the argument that Ms. Hill – former NSC Russian and Ukraine specialist, should not be testifying without the accompaniment of a White House attorney.

The reason behind this proposition is that such an individual would continually disrupt the questioning and instruct the witness, Ms. Hill, to decline answering virtually any question posed and to not supply background on her experiences vis a vis the president’s shadow foreign policy operation.

Such objections would be on the ground of the legal theory the White House is advancing, which is that all testimony is covered on an (unfounded) theory of “absolute immunity” and boundless “executive privilege”

Jordan’s not the brightest bulb in the ceiling and if he is the best the GOP has to save Trump’s butt, it’s not going to end well. Jordan’s play, in football parlance, is stopped behind the line of scrimmage.

Mr. Jordan:  I would just underscore, Mr. Chairman then we can get back to Mr. Goldman’s question, I would just underscore this is why executive agency counsel should be here. This is why I have never – this is now I’ve never been in these kind of proceedings where agency counsel wasn’t permitted to be present. We wouldn’t have these concerns if they were here.

Chairman Schiff:  Actually Mr. Jordan, you were present at a deposition conducted by Chairman Issa without the presence of agency counsel and you were perfectly copacetic with it at that time, so your statement is not accurate. But nonetheless, the chair has ruled and we will go forward.

Word is Rep. Jordan is still using three cushions whenever he sits on his bruised tushie.

Richard Cameron


 

photo of former NSC Russian - Ukraine adviser Fiona Hill, a prime witness in the impeachment inquiry underway in Congress.

Fiona Hill’s deposition – a main driver of the impeachment inquiry to come

 

Well, now that we’re into the Fiona Hill deposition transcript, we might as well mine it for the treasure trove that it is.

We’ll set the table for a theme that proves to be pervasive within the 200 plus pages of the transcript – Ms. Hill’s perception of and rejection of the conspiracy narratives that have been discovered to be a foundation of the Trump / Giuliani alternate and fictitious theory of the foreign interference in the 2016 election.

In this segment, from page 36, Ms. Hill has just been asked by one of the committee’s main interviewers (most probably, Daniel S. Goldman) at what point she became aware of the involvement and activities of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s clandestine influence operation. Hill said it was in late Winter, early Spring of this year. She then tells him this:

Hill:   So that was how I first became aware that there was some deeper interest on the part of Mr. Giuliani”.

Q. (Questioner):  And what did you understand that interest to have been when you initially learned about it?

Hill:  To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out quite what it was about because there were references to George Soros; there were references to 2015; and then there were all kinds of references to when I first read the article in The Hill, which I think was in late March of 2019, it was referring to do not prosecute lists and statements from the Ukrainian prosecutor, Mr. Lutsenko, none of which I’d ever heard of anything about before.

This is significant as we go forward. The Hill (a politically oriented website and periodical), up until October, had been a platform for an opinion contributor, as he was designated by the website – John Solomon.

John Solomon is a leading character in the seeding of the grand conspiracy narrative that the right wing media and correspondingly, the Republican party have been in commerce with, to change the subject on the Trump regime’s crimes and abuse of power. The key imperative was to blunt, if not to nullify entirely, the Russian interference fact pattern validated by all of our intelligence services.

Solomon, who was nudged out by the management of The Hill, at the behest of the rank and file actual journalists on staff because his reporting was based on discredited sources, was promoting a bizarre counter-narrative that it was Democrats allied with elements of the Ukrainian government that spurred the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign.

Two of the most prominent conduits to Solomon were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – Giuliani operatives, whom you will recall, were arrested trying to leave the United States ahead of federal election law indictments.

To put the Solomon – Parnas relationship in shorthand, Solomon was fishing for material to build a fictional recasting of events that the U.S. intelligence community agrees was exclusively a Russian orchestrated attack on our elections, into one that alleges that Democrats and Ukraine were the culprits.

It sounds good to Trump followers because it conforms to their cognitive biases and it sounds good to Fox News, Breitbart, Info Wars, right wing talkers and needless to say, the Russian propaganda apparatus and the Republican party.

Solomon appeared on Fox News or Fox Business at least 72 times (over 50 of the appearances on Hannity) and as a reward for furthering a line on their network which bolsters viewership, Solomon is now employed by them. 

The leading man in Solomon’s, pardon the expression, trumped up reports, was Yuriy Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s top prosecutor. As Pro-Publica reports, a month after Lutsenko’s Hill TV appearance, the former Ukrainian prosecutor backed off of his allegations.

He told a Ukrainian-language publication that he himself was the one who asked the U.S. ambassador (Marie Yovanovitch) for the list of supposedly untouchable figures – those the U.S. deemed immune from investigation or prosecution. The State Department said there was never any list, calling it an “outright fabrication”.

And Lutsenko told the Los Angeles Times last month that he saw no evidence of or witnessed any wrongdoing that would justify an investigation into Biden’s son’s business dealings in his country.

We should note that what we have outlined here, is barely the tip of the iceberg regarding Giuliani, his accomplices and the origins of the conspiracy theory he was engineering in the Ukraine and propagating in right wing media and GOP members of Congress. It is just to provide context to Fiona Hill’s testimony.

There will be additional reporting forthcoming, unpacking in considerable additional detail, the broader disinformation campaign.

Before we continue, it is important to relate that Rudy Giuliani, all the time under the employ of Donald Trump, was at the root of the successful machinations of uprooting Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kiev.

Q:   Now why did the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch mark a turning point for you?

Ms. Hill:  Because there was no basis for her removal. The accusations against her had no merit whatsoever. This was a mishmash of conspiracy theories that, again, I’ve told you I firmly believe to be baseless, an idea of an association between her (Yovanovitch) and George Soros. I had had accusations similar to this being made against me as well.

My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which have started again, frankly, as it’s been announced that I’ve been giving this deposition, accusing me of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president, and, you know, of various improprieties.

I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, calls at my home. My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door. I picked up a phone call to have someone call me obscenities. I’m very nervous about my testifying today as a result of that.

Now I’m not easily intimidated, but that made me mad. And when I saw this happening to Ambassador Yovanovitch again, I was furious because this is, again, just this whipping up of what is frankly an anti-semitic conspiracy theory about George Soros to basically target non-partisan career officials and also some political appointees as well, because I just want to say this – this is not indiscriminate in its attacks.

Ms. Hill goes on, at several junctures, to assign the culpability of the shadow government operation, including the personal attacks on career public servants, to Rudy Giuliani’s leadership and organization. Here is one of the segments you have probably heard in reporting on Hill’s testimony, in relation to this:

Q.  And did you discuss Ambassador Yovanovitch with Ambassador Bolton?

Ms. Hill:  I did.

Q.   And what was his reaction to this?

Ms. Hill:  His reaction was pained. And he basically said in fact, he directly said, “Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up.”

Further on in the transcript we learn that it was the president himself, according to Ms. Hill’s testimony, that put Ambassador to the EU (European Union) in the lead on coordinating the counter-operation at the State Department. This despite, Sondland having neglected to disclose such fact at his original deposition with the committee.

Ms. Hill:  But this is also in the period where, rather unexpectedly, our Ambassador to the EU, Ambassador Sondland informed us, but just informed us without, again, us being given any specific directive, that he had been assigned to be in charge, at least in interim fashion, of the Ukraine portfolio.

Q.  And around when was that?

Ms. Hill:  That was in the May – June timeframe.

Q.  And who did you understand assigned Ambassador Sondland to do that?

Ms. Hill:   At first, nobody. And it was only later, very late June, when Ambassador Sondland told me again that he was in charge of Ukraine. And I asked, well, “on whose authority?” And he said, “the President”.

Ms. Hill, in another passage, relates that the assignment of Sondland was perceived to her and her colleagues both on the NSC and at State, to be unusual and peculiar, because it was initiated outside of customary and proper official channels.

Ms. Hill:  But (Sondland) said that he had been, again, this is what he said to us, and I can only tell you what Ambassador Sondland said to me, that the President had given him broad authority on all things related to Europe; that he was the President’s point man on Europe.

So this meant that anything that was related to the European Union, could, in his view, fall within his purview. And I was constantly going back to (the) State Department and to the Deputy Assistant Secretaries and Acting Assistant Secretary to try to clarify this.

And again, in each case, they had no knowledge of these responsibilities that had been accorded to Ambassador Sondland in his rendition of these issues.

Check back with us tomorrow as we outline from Ms. Hill’s testimony, the critical presence and import of National Security Adviser John Bolton’s reaction to and statements about a hastily scheduled and on the fly meeting with top Ukrainian officials arranged by EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The sequence and implications are striking.

Richard Cameron


 

press photo from 1972 of women marching in support of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
Press photo from 1972 of women marching in support of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

How Virginia might raise the ERA from the dead

In the early 70’s the ERA – Equal Rights Amendment was the biggest controversy next to the Vietnam War. Though its first draft was written in 1923, it came to new life with the women’s movement in the 60’s and was finally submitted to the States for ratification in 1972.

I was just a little kid but I remember hearing family members and others complain about it. Nothing specific. But always negative. I grew up believing it was was a done deal and a huge part of the new secularizing and godlessness of our nation.

The continued cries of the feminists for “equal rights” through the decades were just the complaints of women who wanted “special rights” or “more than men”, said the critics of the proposal  I was taught by what I overheard in church and social circles that they just hated men and weren’t satisfied. 

I had no idea the ERA had never been ratified. No idea, until just three years ago, that it was still just an idea waiting to come into fruition.

The idea that women are still legally second class citizens to men in many ways, not just in “feminazi” dreams but in reality was a punch in the gut. And looking at the list of States that had still refused to ratify the amendment fit perfectly with my upbringing.

With one exception, Arizona, the States refusing to approve are profoundly linked to the religious Right.

On Nov 5, Virginia turned BlueThough over 80 % of the state approves the idea of ratification the leadership once again killed ratification just last February. But now not only is there hope for passing –  it is talked of being one of the top priorities for the 2020 legislature.

The ERA is not merely “an idea who’s time has come”.  It’s a moral imperative that should have been set in stone not decades ago but centuries ago. I know that now. And I can’t wait to celebrate.

Jennifer Keller Puebla

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